Does the Precautionary Principle Cover Actual Problems?
Robert Mayer at Publius Pundit has these thoughts on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore. His basic point, if I understand it clearly, is that in an era of pressing world problems, the Peace Prize has been awarded for symbolic gestures. The Nobel citation is nothing for something that's already happened. It's for the achievement of preventing something that could, possibly happen in the future if a certain climate model is correct.
Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries.
But what about large-scale migration now? What about competition for resources now? What about burdens being borne by vulnerble countries now with clear and proximate causes? Must the World remain silent on those issues because taking them up may be contentious or hard or actual? As Robert Mayer puts it:
Yet one cannot help but be unimpressed with this, when truly the door is still open on his major platform: global warming. I simply cannot fathom the idea of spending trillions of dollars in the hope that we humans can lower the temperature of the earth when those trillions of dollars can fuel research and technologies that, despite whatever happens outside our control, will improve the overall human condition regardless. I'm talking about technologies that can better conserve and distribute water and create more of it. It can also be invested in education. If we really have to water our lawns as often as we do (well, I live in Arizona now, where colored rock lawns have been popularized), could it hurt to let people know to do it at night? Can't we teach our children by example and just turn the faucet off?
So I must say that I must agree with Czech President Vaclav Klaus -- the reasons for giving Al Gore the peace prize for his work on global warming is unclear and indistinct. He has raised awareness of an issue that itself is rather unclear and indistinct when there are plenty of climate and environmental issues that can actually be solved without the need to put civilization on hold.
My suggestion is that the Nobel Committee, if it really wants to prevent future wars that occur because of climate change, the environment, water, or what have you, is to offer the peace prize up as much like the X Prize which has shot the space tourism industry into orbit. For example: the $1.5 million dollar prize will go to whoever can develop a new desalination process that is cheaper and more effective than those currently in existence. Trillions of dollars in economic losses due to Al Gore's prescription is ridiculous compared to the $1.5 million it would take to unleash human potential all over the world in developing new technologies to deal with these problems.